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Pulling the Right Strings

October 30, 2006 12:00 AM

What's the best way to ensure a series' renewal? Put a network executive-very politely-into your show. For the Nickelodeon puppet series "Mr. Meaty," about two burger-slinging teens working in a food court, series creators Jason Hopley and Jamie Shannon came up with a recurring character, a corporate executive for the Mr. Meaty franchise, based on Nick development and production head Marjorie Cohn. Not surprisingly, the creators said, "She's the most beautiful puppet we have and the only one who can actually smile." -James Hibberd

Broadcasters in Catfight Over Tigers

Despite being American League champions and World Series participants for the first time in 22 years, the Detroit Tigers may not even show up on Detroit's local broadcast television next season. The team and cable partner Fox Sports Net Detroit, which handled the broadcast deal with Granite Broadcasting-owned WMYD-TV for this season, have begun preliminary talks with stations interested in televising games for 2007, said Karen Cullen, VP of corporate communications for Tigers owner Ilitch Holdings. The sticking point in negotiating a broadcast television deal is the Tigers' success: The team believes its games are worth more, but station executives are skeptical of any significant boost. There's a very real chance the Tigers could be off the free local airwaves in 2007, as they were in 2004 and 2005, those involved said. WMYD struck a one-year deal with FSN initially for 15 games, then three more, for this season, said Greg Hammaren, VP and general manager of FSN Detroit. "Under the right conditions, we would continue the over-the-air arrangement," Mr. Hammaren said. "Will it happen again next year? I'm not sure yet."

-Bill Shea, Crain's Detroit Business

Freston, Well Done

Erstwhile Viacom CEO Tom Freston was roasted at the Pierre Hotel in New York last week before a crowd that included most of the senior executives of Viacom—even Mr. Freston's replacement, Philippe Dauman—plus senior News Corp. executives led by Chairman Rupert Murdoch and a CBS Corp. group headed by CEO Les Moonves. Mr. Freston, who agreed to be honored by the Center for Communications before he was canned by Viacom for not developing the company's broadband strategy aggressively enough, took some particularly harsh licks from News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin, who said, "I don't think there's anyone who thinks Viacom treated Tom fairly. Tom's continued success will haunt Viacom for years," then added: "But enough about Tom Cruise. We're actually here to talk about Tom Freston, and Tom Freston is an asshole." Mr. Chernin also quipped that it was difficult for Mr. Freston to be "screwed over by a guy so old he needed a little blue pill to do it," referring to Viacom's octogenarian chairman, Sumner Redstone. Also ribbing Mr. Freston were Debra Lee, CEO of BET; and Judy McGrath, CEO of MTV Networks, who noted the recent interest in "Tom's package," and also in his severance. Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert congratulated Mr. Freston for ruining America's youth and economy by creating the MTV generation. But Mr. Colbert also saluted Mr. Freston for exporting MTV abroad. "What's awful in America is fantastic when we do it to foreign countries," he said, delighting in the idea that members of the Taliban might be attempting stunts from "Jackass." When Mr. Freston took the stage he said he had finally bought a computer, something he'd "never gotten around to" at Viacom. While "swimming the Internet," he said, he had found some "amazing stuff," and urged people to check out a site called—MySpace.com. -Jon Lafayette